Box with red X

Dear Elizabeth,

What does it mean when I receive an e-mail which is supposed to include a photo but where the photo is supposed to be there is a large blank box with a small red “x” in the uppoer corner?

Love your Newsletter and have learned much from reading it. Sure helps this tired old head figure out complicated “stuff”.

Thank you from a fan.


Dear Marcia,

I get different variations of this question just about every week, so I am going to take another shot at trying to explain what it means and why.

When you are looking at an email, or a webpage and there is a box with nothing but a red X in the corner, this means that there is supposed to be a picture in that box, but the picture file is unavailable.

There are several reasons why the picture might be unavailable.

The most common reason is that your email program has blocked the pictures. Most email programs will do this to help protect you from malicious software. The email program will also provide a way for you to turn pictures back on though.

In Microsoft Outlook, email messages with blocked pictures will have the following text at the top of the message:

“Click here to download pictures. To help protect your privacy, Outlook has prevented automatic download of some pictures in this message.”

All you have to do to view the pictures is click on that message.

In my Gmail window, I see a message near the top that says,:

“Images are not displayed” with a link below that I can click on to display the images.

The second most common reason you will see a box with the red X is that the image is just not available. This is commonly seen with AOL email messages. For some reason, when a person with an AOL account sends an email to someone outside of AOL, the images are just not available. In this case, the recipient can’t do anything to view the images, just ask the sender to try sending the pictures in a different way.

On web pages, you might also see the little box with a red X. This indicates that there is supposed to be an image, but the image file is not where it should be. Again, this is not something you can fix, the web designer needs to either upload the image, or fix the HTML code that points to the image.


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    • JalB
    • November 26, 2011

    You didn’t explain what to do about the dreaded red X in that awful horrible very very bad Windows Live Mail. Oh why oh why couldn’t they just keep Outlook Express.

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